In May of 1998, I graduated from Millikin University with a degree in Chemistry. By July I moved cross country to southern Colorado to be a residence hall director. At only 22 I was considered the “adult” living with 150 college freshman. I also signed up for Dream Group—a form of group therapy that was recommended for everyone on staff. The job would be stressful and we would certainly need help.
While I participated in Dream Group for three semesters, only one dream sticks in my memory as life changing. In the dream I watched Winnie-the Pooh creep through the aisles of a toy store. Over his shoulder I could see a hunter. “Oh no!” dream Leah thought, “Winnie-the-Pooh is being hunted. He’s in trouble!” As the view zoomed out, it became obvious that the shadow was Winnie’s own. The soft, sweet, gentle teddy bear was being hunted by his own sinister
When I finished telling the dream to my group, my therapist and the other members thought the meaning was crystal clear. I couldn’t see it, but by the end of the hour I could. As a young professional in a very stressful job, I had neatly split my persona into several distinct identities.
Every person I encountered got the “right” Leah for them. Friend Leah. Family Leah. Authority Figure Leah. Subordinate Leah. Single Leah. I was constantly changing masks and my subconscious had finally thrown in the towel. My brain screamed at my while I was sleeping, “Become one person! Integrate your personas!”
I’m not saying I had split personalities, I was just very far from being an integrated and authentic person. My therapist worked with me to start taking off the masks and to integrate my persona. It took a few years, but by the time I moved to Chicago in 2002 every person I met got the same Leah. I am very proud that Shul Leah is the same as Office Leah who is the same as Leah on a Date.
Before you get dressed for the Purim Carnival, take a few minutes and evaluate the masks you wear every day. Do your friends get the same person that your supervisor works with daily? In situations where you usually wear a mask, would bringing the real you be so bad? It is scary to move towards authenticity, but your dreams will thank you. Mine certainly did.
Now… does anyone know where I put my Queen Esther mask?
Originally published March 2007, Shebrew.com